Tuesday, September 20, 2011

lemon cream tart

Oh my, this dessert, adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours, was so G-O-O-D!  Silky smooth lemony cream.  Not too sweet, not too sour.  So perfect for spring.  I just love all the yellow goodness.  And when you think it can't get any better, the chilled lemon cream is placed in a pâte sablée, the richest of the French short pastry crusts.  It's a sweet dough, basically a shortbread cookie.  Rich and crumbly.  Please don't let the 30 tablespoons of butter scare you away.  After all, you'll be sharing such an impressive dessert with family and friends.  

ingredients for the lemon cream...simple and good
zesting and juicing

cut the butter into tablespoons, all 21 of them

oh, the sweet smell of lemon

adding the eggs to the zest and lemon juice

whisking in the eggs
just starting to heat up the cream

starting to whisk, starting out light and foamy

ready to pour into tart shell

mixing the ingredients for the sweet tart dough

getting ready to press the dough into the pan

sweet tart dough ready to be baked...saving a little for patching
the most extraordinary french lemon cream tart
1 cup sugar
finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
1 fully-baked 9-inch tart shell (see recipe below)
Mise en place:  Have an instant-read or candy thermometer, microplane grater/zester and a blender on hand.  Don't use a food processor, only a blender will do here.  Fill a soup pot full of water and bring it to a boil.
Place the sugar and lemon zest in a large heatproof metal bowl that can be set over the pot of boiling water.  Off heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic.  Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.
Set the metal bowl over the pot of boiling water, making sure the bowl doesn't touch the water, and start whisking like crazy so the eggs don't scramble.  You cannot take your eyes off the cream, not even for a few seconds.  At first the cream will be light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger.  As soon as the cream shows the slightest signs of thickening, it will start to leave tracks, measure the temperature.  You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180 degrees fahrenheit. Heads-up at this point -- the tracks mean the cream is almost ready.  Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature. Just realize that getting to 180 degrees can take as long as 10 minutes. 
At this point, remove the cream from the heat and pour it into the container of a blender.  Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees fahrenheit, about 10 minutes.
With the blender on high speed, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time.  Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter.  Once the butter is in, keep blending on high speed for 3 minutes to get the light and airy texture of what lemon cream dreams are made of.  If your blender gets hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the blender a little rest.
Pour the cream into the baked tart shell, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.  Serve cold with whipped cream.  It can keep in the refrigerator for a few days abut it's best to eat it the within 24 hours.

Sweet Tart Dough
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons)
very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in-you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses-about 10 seconds each-until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change-heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy-handed-press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
To partially or fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Liberally butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. For a partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack (keep it in its pan).
To fully bake the crust: Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (I dislike lightly baked crusts, so I often keep the crust in the oven just a little longer. If you do that, just make sure to keep a close eye on the crust’s progress-it can go from golden to way too dark in a flash.) Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.
To patch a partially or fully baked crust, if necessary: If there are any cracks in the baked crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough as soon as you remove the foil. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust. If the tart will not be baked again with its filling, bake for another 2 minutes or so, just to take the rawness off the patch.
Storing: While you can make the lemon cream ahead (it will keep in the frige for 4 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months), once the tart is constructed, it’s best to eat it the day it is made.

1 comment:

  1. Made this fabulous tart with just few minor changes!
    The lemon filling is to DIE for. My mixture never got above 150 after 25 min of constant stirring so I let it be, and it set perfectly.
    My crust however need more liquid, as the egg yolk hardly held any of it together. So i added a few teaspoons of heavy cream that I had on hand. But my baking time was wayyyyy of. I used an 11 in tart pan and knew to bake it for a shorter time. My first crust after only 20 min burnt to a crisp. So I had to restart that process. Baking for 9 min with foil and 5 without.
    Over all this is lovely dessert with a creamy and wonderful texture that I have made 5 times since!